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Lead Us Not Into Penn Station:Provocative Pieces

National Convention

September 15-17, 2017

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Published by FFRF

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Lauryn Seering

Lauryn Seering

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is protesting a blatantly religious school district logo in North Carolina.

The logo of Madison County Schools (headquartered in Marshall) contains a triangle with the word "God" at the top and a surrounding square that includes "spiritually" as one of four traits. Former Superintendent Ronald Wilcox designed the logo more than a decade ago and told the Asheville Citizen-Times in 2014, "It just sums up the culture here and what we believe." The logo is widely used throughout the district and is prominently featured on the official website. FFRF had earlier written to the school district two years ago about the logo but did not receive a reply. 

"It is well settled by the courts that public schools may not advance or promote religion," FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott writes to Madison County Schools Board of Education Chair Theresa Banks. "Furthermore, courts have continually held that school districts may not display religious messages in schools. Displaying this inherently religious logo violates the Establishment Clause because it demonstrates district preference for religion over nonreligion."

It is no defense that religion is one element on the logo, FFRF asserts, citing past court rulings on the issue. It warns Madison County Schools that continuing use of the logo poses a serious liability problem for the school system, since earlier this year FFRF won a judgment against the Chino Valley Unified School Board in California in a challenge to its unconstitutional religious practices that resulted in an award of more than $200,000 in costs and attorney fees.

"The Madison County Schools district should realize how egregious this constitutional violation is," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "We hope that school officials will resolve this so that we won't have to take further action."

FFRF is encouraging parents or students who object to the religious logo to contact it at 1-800-335-4021 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

FFRF again requests the Madison County Schools district to remove "God" and "spirituality" from the logo. It is time to redesign the logo, it advises the school system.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with 24,000 nonreligious members across the country, including more than 500 in North Carolina.

 

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Dan Barker Executive Board of Directors

View DAN BARKER's profile above. 

View ANNIE LAURIE GAYLOR's profile above. 

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Patricia Cleveland

PATRICIA CLEVELAND, (Director) with her late husband Roger, was a founding member of the long-lived chapter, Alabama Freethought Association (active 1989-2016). Pat and Roger were awarded FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award for being outspoken atheists in the bible belt, and as volunteers for overseeing Lake Hypatia Freethought Advance (Not Retreat) near Talladega. Deeding property to FFRF, they encouraged the national FFRF to build a southern outpost, and, at Pat’s suggestion, also erect a monument to “Atheists in Foxholes.” Pat has been volunteer caretaker of the hall and campgrounds for decades, and as director or co-director of the chapter oversaw several successful lawsuits. She also arranged the annual “Glorious Fourth” of July event at Lake Hypatia Freethought Hall, attracting freethinkers not just from the South but around the country to the rural event. She is a mother and grandmother.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proud to announce the 10 winners of the 2016 Michael Hakeem Memorial College Essay Contest for people of color.

Essayists were asked to write a personal persuasive essay about why they are nonbelievers and their experiences as young nonbelievers of color.

Winners are listed below and include the award amount and the college or university they are attending. FFRF has paid out a total of $8,750 in award money for this contest.

First place
Nadia Duncan, SUNY Purchase College ($3,000)

Second place
Anuj Krishnamurthy, Brown University ($2,000)

Third place
Bahram Sherwani, San Francisco State University ($1,000)

Fourth place
Jonathan Azpeitia, Pomona College ($750)

Fifth place (tie)
Kamerin Winston, Spelman College ($500)

Fifth place (tie)
Tyneshia Griffin, Virginia Tech University ($500)

Sixth place
Benjamin Duru, California University-Long Beach ($400)

Honorable mentions ($200 each)

  • Ana Almeida-Rojo, Oglethorpe University
  • Taylor Johnson, SUNY at Purchase
  • Alexandra Lewis, East Carolina University

FFRF has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979.

"It's a myth that most African-Americans, Latinos or Hispanic-Americans are uniformly religious," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "FFRF wants to showcase diversity and reward minorities in the freethought movement who are especially courageous in 'coming out of the closet.'"

The college contest is named for the late Michael Hakeem, a sociology professor who was an FFRF officer and active atheist known by generations of University of Wisconsin-Madison students for fine-tuning their reasoning abilities.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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